I am a person who is rarely at a loss for words, but I don’t know how to write this piece.
I don’t know how to mourn for this, how to feel about this, except for ashamed because I’m not sure I feel anything. The recent tragedy in Florida, and so many others, make me feel compelled to say something.
Like every journalism student and aspiring journalist, I have a number of news apps on my phone, each set to send me news alerts when something of consequence happens. It’s gotten to the point where if it’s an alert about a shooting, I usually don’t open it. I mutter something like “not again” and tap out of the page and go back to snapchat, for that I am ashamed. I am desensitized to this level of violence.
I remember when I was younger, after the tragedy at Columbine occurred, I was only six or seven and one of the victim’s fathers came and spoke at my church. They played a video of the emergency calls from that day. I remember going home and trying to sleep and having nightmares about that. Then I remember when it happened again. And again. And again. At some point, the nightmares stopped and this just became something that was a part of life.
That terrifies me. It disgusts me. I hate that about myself, about our culture. This isn’t meant to be a diatribe about gun violence, but damn. How do we allow this to happen over and over again?
Like every journalism student and aspiring journalist, I have a favorite journalist. His name is Nicholas Kristof and he’s had some excellent things to say about gun violence in America. Politically, he leans left, but he’s one of the most rational thinkers and writers today.
In one article, he describes guns as our national “blind spot,” making a comparison to vehicles and the reforms that have been enacted as cars have developed and as technology has developed.
We all agree to forgo some freedoms to operate vehicles safely. We agree to speed limits, licensing tests, registering our vehicles, wearing seat belts, and, as my bank account can attest, we agree to penalties if someone decides to ignore those rules.
This argument resonates with me. At some point as cars developed and became a main feature of life in America, we all agreed to put people first. We agreed that it was okay to lose some freedom, we consented to these rules and the results speak for themselves.
“If we had the same auto fatality rate today that we had in 1921, by my calculations we would have 715,000 Americans dying annually in vehicle accidents,” says Kristof in his article. He notes that instead, “we’ve reduced the fatality rate by more than 95 percent,” not by taking away everyone’s cars, but by installing rules and regulations to ensure proper usage.
Short version: we put others in front of ourselves.
It’s not that altruistic, in putting our freedoms second, we are also planning for some protection to ourselves, a little more safety to ensure that we’re a little safer on the roadways as well.
I don’t believe that the solution is to ban guns, it’s not realistic or reasonable, but I’m tired of being hopeless and desensitized when the next tragedy happens.
“A century ago, we reacted to deaths and injuries from unregulated vehicles by imposing sensible safety measures that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives a year. Why can’t we ask politicians to be just as rational about guns?” said Kristof.
Enacting sensible changes might cost us some freedom, but let’s take this opportunity to put others first.